With 3 days in New York, you won’t really manage to see all the attractions in the city and experience everything you get to offer. Yet, you will be able to see quite a bit of it. If you follow a well planned itinerary, book entrances at the most popular attractions, pace yourself and follow the plan by keeping even the timings, you will be able to see the most interesting places in town and you may even have a chance to relax and just take in the fabulous atmosphere here and there.
You may not know it yet, but I have been to New York countless times and I have even lived for a few months years ago, when I worked at the United Nations. So, I thought I’d help you with the planning bits and I thought I’d put together a 3 days in New York itinerary. All you will have to do is booking your flights, your hotel and get skip the line tickets for the attractions I recommend, should you decide you want to visit.
In this post, I will tell you what you can see and do if you have 3 days in New York. I will also provide some useful tips to help you skip the lines at main landmarks, and on how to best prepare and plan for your trip.
Continue reading to discover how to make the most of your 3 days in New York.
What You Need To Know About This 3 Days In New York Itinerary
Before getting to the details of this 3 days in New York itinerary, I want to stress once again that you need to book your tickets to all the tourist attractions well in advance. Fail to do so and you may be stuck with at the ticket counter and even find out that tickets are sold out.
Don’t worry, I will tell you any time you have to make a reservation.
Follow this itinerary diligently and you will have a great time in New York.
The starting point when I put together this itinerary was that you have at least a full 3 days in New York – which means you are going to sleep there 3 nights. You will have to head out bright and early every day – I recommend leaving no later than 8:00 am. I also recommend opting for a quick lunch and to sit down for a meal just for dinner.
GOOD TO KNOW: The timings for the visits I include in this itinerary are estimates, so use your good judgement to keep pace.
My idea when creating this itinerary is that you should visit attractions that are more or less close one to the other on the same day, so that you don’t have to always rely on public transportation.
I have included some of New York’s most famous landmarks – those you really can’t miss. But I have also added a few that will add to your experience.
This is a packed itinerary.
For each of your 3 days in New York, I will tell you the starting point and include links to a map that will help you get from one place to the other. You can use public transportation to reach your starting point and at the end of the day to get back to your hotel.
Continue reading to discover what to see and do in New York in 3 days.
A Fantastic Itinerary For 3 Days In New York
The first of your 3 days in New York is going to be packed. You will visit the Statue of Liberty departing from Battery Park, 9/11 Memorial and the World Trade Center; the Oculus and then walk to Wall Street and all the way to Brooklyn Bridge, which you’ll cross to get to Brooklyn Heights for breathtaking views of Manhattan.
GOOD TO KNOW: If you feel this itinerary is too much, cut down on one or two attractions. For example, you can decide to only do a ferry ride outside the Statue of Liberty without actually going up; or you can decide not to go up the World Trade Center Observatory.
Map of day 1 New York itinerary
Click here to see the recommended itinerary for your first day in New York. You’ll get an idea of the walking distance from one place to the other. You can even rearrange the order of the various attractions you want to visit according to your tastes and needs.
Recommended lunch spots
Battery Park. There are various eateries, delis and bakeries where you can each lunch after you come back from the Statue of Liberty.
Eataly. It’s south of the Oculus, and there are many Italian style quick bites.
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
With 3 days in New York, you really can’t skip the Statue of Liberty. This is probably the most iconic attraction in New York, and the very symbol of the United States. The statue was donated by France in the 19th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The views of the Statue of Liberty from the ferry as it approaches are splendid. Once you get to the actual statue, you can go to the Pedestal, where there is an interesting museum that will help you learn more about the history of the statue, and even the crown. Tours to the Statue of Liberty usually continue to Ellis Island.
GOOD TO KNOW: Tours of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island last between 3 and 4 hours. For shorter tours, consider a cruise around them that lasts 60 minutes. You won’t disembark but the view is amazing.
TIP: You should try to catch the very first ferry to the Statue of Liberty, which departs at 8:30 am. This way you can expect to be back at around 12:30, in time for lunch.
Remember that the ferry leaves from Battery Park. Get there well in advance as there will be a bit of a line to get on the boat.
These are the best tours of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island:
- Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island early access tour – the best option as it gives very early access;
- Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island & 9/11 Tour with Priority One World Observatory Tickets – a fantastic tour that takes you to the most famous attractions in town;
- Early Access Statue of Liberty Tour with Statue Pedestal Access & Ellis Island Tour – an early morning walk for splendid views;
- Statue of Liberty priority or flexible ticket – a 4 hours audio-guided tour that is actually quite budget friendly;
- 60-minute cruise around the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island – an excellent option if you like a shorter visit;
- Statue of Liberty pedestal, Ellis Island and pre-ferry tour – it includes a visit to Battery park.
TIP: Make sure to book your visit well in advance to grab the earliest available tour!
You are spending 3 days in New York, 9/11 Memorial is a must!
This is made up of twin reflecting pools that are meant to be the footprints of the Twin Towers. There is a man made waterfall – the largest in North America. The Memorial also has some bronze plaques with the incisions of the names of those who died in the 1993 and 2001 terrorist attacks.
GOOD TO KNOW: Factor in about 2 hours for your visit, whether you decide to go for a guided tour or just the basic skip-the-line ticket option.
These are some good guided tour options for 9/11 Memorial and Museum:
- 9/11 Memorial Tour & Priority Entrance 9/11 Museum Tickets – a very good tour of 9/11 Memorial;
- 9/11 Memorial Tour with Priority Entrance Observatory Tickets – this is the most inclusive option;
- 9/11 Memorial and Museum skip the line entry – a timed entrance ticket that is at the same time inclusive and budget friendly;
- 9/11 Memorial, Ground Zero and optional museum entry – the most budget friendly option, but keep in mind the museum is not included.
For a truly hassle free day, you may want to do one of the two excellent tours I recommend below. They include guided visit to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, 9/11 Memorial, One World Observatory and the Oculus. In other words, most of the attractions I recommend visiting on your first day.
- Statue of Liberty Tour, Ellis Island, & 9/11 Memorial Tour with 9/11 Museum Tickets
- Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island & 9/11 Tour with Priority One World Observatory Tickets
World Trade Center Observatory
There is nothing like admiring New York from above. That’s why this 3 days in New York itinerary is all about skyscrapers. I really recommend going up the World Trade Center Observatory. With its 541 meters, this is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. It has been built in the same location where the World Trade Center used to be before the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Needless to say, the views from the Observatory are breathtaking – you can see all the way to the Statue of Liberty.
TIP: By the time you make it to the World Trade Center it will be around 3:30 pm. Factor in about one and a half hour for your visit.
These are some good skip the line options to visit the World Trade Center:
- One World Observatory and World Trade Center tour – a guided tour for a more in depth visit;
- One World Observatory skip all lines – a more budget friendly option where you get an iPad to guide yourself around;
- One World Observatory all inclusive flex package – a very inclusive tour with credits for drinks at the end.
You won’t have much time to spend inside the Oculus, but I recommend popping in just to marvel at the architecture. Working as the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, the Oculus is a shopping mall. In fact, it may be a good place to have a short break and a coffee or snack before you continue exploring the city.
Wall Street is really close to the World Trade Center and on the way to Brooklyn Bridge so you can easily add it to your itinerary.
This is one of the most famous streets in the world – the kind of place you have often seen on TV shows, movies and news. The spots not to miss are the statue of the Charging Bull and that of the Fearless girl.
Brooklyn Bridge and Brooklyn Heights
Completed in 1883, Brooklyn Bridge connects lower Manhattan to Brooklyn across the East River. Since you will be in that side of Manhattan, it makes sense to add it to this day’s itinerary. You will get there in the late afternoon or evening, in time for a fantastic sunset or to admire it when it is beautifully illuminated.
This is the first ever suspension bridge built. The views of the bridge and from the bridge are stunning.
Once you get off the bridge, head to Brooklyn Heights Promenade for views of Lower Manhattan.
GOOD TO KNOW: This is probably my favorite view in town!
Brooklyn Heights is the first suburb of New York City. This is a truly charming area, with Victorian style buildings, historic churches and – once you get to Brooklyn Promenade – stunning views that span all the way to New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty.
Once you are done admiring the view, you can opt to go back to Manhattan or to spend more time in Brooklyn.
TIP: If you feel like you still have some energy, head to DUMBO (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass). It’s one of the coolest areas of Brooklyn.
Day two of your New York in 3 days itinerary will not be as intense as day one. First of all, you don’t need to start too early. If you feel some places are not interesting to you, definitely trip down this itinerary. It not, you will get to explore a museum, Central Park, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Rockefeller Center and Top of the Rock, Grand Central Station and Times Square.
All museums are located near Central Park, so it is easy to pick one or the other without disrupting this itinerary.
Map of day 2 New York Itinerary
Here you can find the map for your second day in New York. I gave the MET as the starting point, but you can change it for another museum. It will give you a good idea of how far one place is from the other. Remember you can ditch the attractions you are not interested in!
Recommended lunch spots
The Plaza Food Hall. This food hall is located right outside the southern entrance of Central Park. There you will find a variety of places where you can grab a quick meal.
Sarabeths Central Park South. If you feel you have more time and money to splurge, this is one of the best restaurants in the area.
OPTION 1: Metropolitan Museum of Art
With so many museums in New York, it’s hard to pick which one to visit. If you are spending 3 days in New York, you will have to decide which one to visit. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) if one of those you may want to keep in mind. This is one of the best art galleries in the world, with a wide collection that includes pieces from ancient Egypt all the way to the modern era.
The museum is very large – you really need a full day to see it all, so study the map closely and pick which collections you want to see.
GOOD TO KNOW: Re-admissions are allowed at the MET. This means you can leave and come back on the same day to continue exploring.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: MET opens every day from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm. On Fridays and Saturdays it closes at 9:00 pm. Admission is $25.
PRO TIP: If you are visiting New York on a Friday or Saturday, walk this itinerary the other way around and visit MET in the evening. It’s open until 9:00 pm.
OPTION 2: Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
MoMA is truly my favorite museum in New York, so I thought I would give it as an alternative. This gallery is home to some truly iconic works of modern art such as those of Vincent van Gogh (you get to see is Starry Night), or Warhol (you will find the Campbell’s Soup). Included in the collection there are also works by Matisse, Gauguin, Picasso, Dali and Pollock.
You can buy tickets to MoMa in advance to skip the lines. These are the best options:
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: MOMA is open every day from 10.30 am to 5:30 pm. On Fridays it closes at 9:00 pm. On the first Thursday of each month it closes at 9:00 pm. Admission is $25.
OPTION 3: The Guggenheim
Another iconic museum of New York, the Guggenheim Museum is famous for its collection as much as for its building which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The gallery opened in 1959. The hosted exhibits change regularly. I recommend checking before going what the exhibit is. In any case, you can even just plan to pop in to admire the stunning building.
Tickets to the Guggenheim can be bought online allowing you to skip the line – they usually include admission to special exhibits too. Here are the best skip the line options:
- Guggenheim Museum admission ticket with skip the main line option
- The Guggenheim skip the line
- Guggenheim Museum New York
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The museum is open daily from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm. Closing time is 8:00 pm on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Admission is $25.
With 3 days in New York, Central Park is a must! This massive park (a whopping 315 hectares) is a fun place to explore and, quite importantly, it is also free to visit. If you walk around or even rent a bike to get to all the most iconic spots. You can book your bike rental here.
Among the most famous places inside the park, try to see at least a couple of the following: Strawberry Fields, aka John Lennon’s memorial; Bethesda fountain and terrace; Belvedere Castle; the Lake and Gapstow Bridge.
RESPONSIBLE TOURIST TIP: Horse pulled carriage are unfortunately still a thing in Central Park. Don’t ride them – the poor horses are truly stressed!
Read more about responsible tourism on my post “The Complete Guide To Becoming A More Responsible Traveler.”
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Located on Fifth Avenue, near the south corner of Central Park, you will find St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a Gothic style church first inaugurated in 1878. You can pop in for a quick visit.
Rockefeller Center and Top of the Rock
Rockefeller Center is a series of buildings in Art Deco style that are located close to the Cathedral. They were commissioned by the oil magnate Rockefeller. Famous for the Christmas tree (you really have to go if you happen to be in New York around that time of year), connected to the center you will also find the Top of the Rock, a 1930s Art Deco skyscraper. From there you can get impressive views of Midtown and Downtown.
GOOD TO KNOW: Admission to the Top of The Rock is timed so you need to get tickets in advance.
These are the best options:
Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central is one of the main transport hubs in New York and chance are you may go by it regularly during your 3 days in New York. If not, make it a point to go as the building, dating back to 1913 is actually stunning. There are shops, restaurants and more.
This self-guided tour of Grand Central here lasts about one hour and may be a good idea to learn more about the history of the station.
Times Square screams New York. Seen in movies, TV shows and news reports, it’s close to Grand Central Terminal and in the heart of Downtown Manhattan, so easy to get to. Fun during the day, it’s glowing at night.
The last of your 3 days in New York is all about exploring the nicest neighborhoods of Manhattan. After taking in the views from the Empire State Building, you will head south towards the High Line, explore Greenwich Village, Little Italy and Chinatown. You can opt to see a show in Broadway in the evening.
Map of day 3 New York Itinerary
Here is a map for your last day in New York. This day is all about walking, but the distances are not too wide. Once you are done exploring Chinatown you can head back north for dinner or for a show.
Recommended lunch spots
Chelsea Market. Located on 75 Ninth Avenue (between 15th and 16th st.), Chelsea Market has a plethora of budget friendly places where you can have a bite. My favorite is Miznon, a very popular Israeli chain where you can have stuffed pita and veggie sides (try the grilled cauliflower).
Bryant Park is one of the nicest in New York. It’s close to New York Public Library and significantly less touristy than Central Park. Once a mecca for drug dealing and prostitution, it was renovated in the 1990s and it now is a gathering place for people who practice yoga and martial arts. Head there in the early morning for a higher chance to see people buzzing about.
Empire State Building
The Empire State Building is the most famous skyscraper in Manhattan, and you have to go if you have 3 days in New York. The views are absolutely stunning. Go at sunset, and you will be impressed. Go at night, and you’ll get the chills. And now you can even go at sunrise – in case you want to start your day extra early.
Completed in 1931, back then this was the tallest building in the world.
GOOD TO KNOW: Factor in one hour to 90 minutes for your visit.
TIP: Keep in mind that there usually are long lines to get to the Empire State Building observatory, so you must book your tickets in advance. Opt to be there before it opens to avoid the crowds.
These are the best tours and skip the line tickets to the Empire State Building:
- Empire State Building Observatory tickets – an excellent skip the line option which includes an audioguide.
- Empire State Building day and night entry – is there anything better than having the chance of going up the Empire State Building twice in a day?
- Empire State Building sunrise experience – perfect views of New York at sunrise, but it is actually quite expensive.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The Empire State Building opens daily from 8:00 am to 2:00 am.
The Flatiron Building was completed in 1902 and with its 87 meters and iron shape it is one of the oldest and oddest skyscrapers in New York. It’s located on Fifth Avenue at the end of Madison Square and an easy addition to this 3 days in New York itinerary.
The High Line is one of the best new attractions in town and it is also free. It cuts through Midtown Manhattan from Chelsea Market (which thus is an ideal lunch spot) and goes all the way to Greenwich, so you should include it in your 3 days in New York itinerary.
This is a railway viaduct that had been abandoned in the 1980s. It was then turned into an elevated park of about 2 km designed by Dutch landscape architect Piet Oudolf. It opened again in 2009.
This is one of the most charming neighborhood in Manhattan and it would be a pity not to visit when you are spending 3 days in New York. It is where many TV series where filmed – Sex And The City fans like myself will know that this is where they can find Carrie Bradshaw apartment.
There are various tours that go to the Greenwich Village in case you feel you need guidance. These are some good ones:
- Sex And The City hotspots tour – this very popular tour actually goes through Manhattan and includes the village. It lasts 3.5 hours so you can be sure it is worth your money.
- Greenwich Village 2-hour tour – a very recommended tour that goes through the neighborhood in depth. It starts at 1:30 pm so it is perfect timing in terms of this itinerary.
Washington Square Park
Washington Square is really close to Greenwich Village and on your way to Little Italy, so add it to your itinerary. It’s a nice park with a marble arch and an assembly place for artists and bohemians and for families with children.
DISCLAIMER: As an Italian, I will have to tell you that the food in Little Italy is usually nothing like Italian. You will at most get the Italian-American variation, which is by all means good.
Having said so, Little Italy is a fun neighborhood to explore, with nice boutiques and great bars.
Though I can’t really comment on the authentic of the food in Chinatown, I can say this is a must see for the many attractions, interesting shops, and good restaurants. In fact, it is a cool neighborhood to just walk around and it is nice and busy, with quirky looking signs and lots of shopping opportunities that go from traditional Chinese produce to more high-end boutiques.
It’s just across Canal Street from Little Italy so you can easily add it to your 3 days in New York itinerary.
OPTION 1: Broadway
A nice addition to this New York in 3 days itinerary would be a show in Broadway. After all, this is the place to go for comedy and musicals. There are 41 theaters; some of them have signs dating back to more than a century ago. Most importantly, you will have many shows to pick from.
Watching a show is on the pricey side, but if you look carefully you may be able to find a good deal.
OPTION 2: Metropolitan Opera House
If you are into shows but of a more sophisticated kind, drop Broadway and head to the Metropolitan Opera House instead. Located in Lincoln Center, this massive modernist building is quite a sight from the outside. The stage is huge and perfect for putting up the most incredible show, with literally hundreds of actors and an incredible scenography.
Guided Tours Of New York
You can easily follow this itinerary for 3 days in New York independently, as long as you book skip the line entrances or guided tours to visit the most crowded attractions. Joining a guided tour of New York for a day may be a good idea to maximize your time. These are come tours I recommend:
- Statue of Liberty Tour, Ellis Island, & 9/11 Memorial Tour with 9/11 Museum Tickets – an all-day tour that takes you to the Statue of Liberty and the highlights of Lower Manhattan.
- Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island & 9/11 Tour with Priority One World Observatory Tickets – a very good tour that goes to the Statue of Liberty, 9/11 Memorial and the One World Center Observatory.
Using A 72 Hours New York Pass
If you plan to spend 3 days in New York, you may benefit from a New York Pass to enjoy discounts (they can be of up to 41% in total) and skip the line access to a great deal of attractions. City passes usually include a transportation pass – so you don’t have to worry about getting a metro pass. You can get your pass here or here.
The New York CityPass gives you admission to many of the attractions mentioned in this 3 days in New York itinerary. Among them, there are the Empire State Building, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Top of the Rock Observation Deck or Guggenheim Museum; the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum.
GOOD TO KNOW: While the pass gives you access to the various attractions, you must make separate reservations for each of them.
Practical Tips To Make The Most Of New York In 3 Days
Where to stay in New York
New York is packed with good places to stay. If you only have 3 days in New York, however, I recommend picking a place in Manhattan, just so that you are more central and it is easier to explore.
Mind you, Manhattan is huge! Places near Times Square, Madison Square Garden or Lincoln Center are perfect for visiting, but it’s chaos and madness 24/7. Opt for something in lower Manhattan for a quieter atmosphere and a place where you can go for a stroll in the evening.
These are some good places to stay in Manhattan:
- French Quarters has nice, cozy rooms albeit a bit small. It’s walking distance from a lot of attractions. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Hotel 50 Bowery is a nice boutique hotel in Chinatown, with nice, larger rooms. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- CitizenM New York Times Square has comfortable, well organized and modern rooms in a very good location. Top floor rooms are nicer, but more expensive. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
When to visit New York
Any time is a good time to visit New York. But if you are planning to spend only 3 days in New York it’s better to go in the late spring or in September, when days are longer and the weather milder.
How to get to New York
Needless to say, a city like New York is very well connected to the rest of the country and the world. JFK airport is the best connected to the city. Skyscanner is the best site to look for cheap flight. For flights from Europe, Air France also has good deals.
Getting from JFK to Manhattan
To get from JFK airport to Manhattan you can use the bus, taxis, uber and even the AirTrain and subway.
Taxis are the most comfortable way to get to Manhattan. They have a flat rate of $52 to which you just need to add the tolls and a $4.50 surcharge during peak hours (between 4:00 and 8:00 pm on weekdays).
UBER costs more or less the same as taxis. It may just be easier to get a taxi if you don’t have internet connection to call an Uber.
Shuttles are a cheap yet comfortable option. They start at around $20 and can be booked online beforehand. You can book yours here.
The AirTrain takes you to Manhattan for less than $8. There are 3 different AirTrain lines.
How to move around New York
This itinerary was drafted so as to minimize the use of public transportation but depending on where you are staying you will need to use it to get to your starting point every morning and to get back to your hotel in the evening.
The easiest way to move around New York is by subway. A ride costs $3 USD. The subway works 24/7 – though service is limited at night. You can also count on lots of buses, yellow cabs and Uber.
In order to move around town by subway, I recommend getting the Metro Card as soon as you get to town. Not only the rides are cheaper ($2.75 USD instead of $3) but, most importantly, you won’t have to fiddle with change. The card is re-usable and you can top it up with credit any time you need.
Luggage storage in New York
You will find luggage storage in many places around New York. LuggageHero is a good site to find the location closer to where you are staying. There are storage locations in Grand Central Terminal, Port Authority Bus Terminal, Penn Station, and Times Square.
Other useful tips
Get a guide book
A good guide book may be a good idea to have more information on the places you visit and to get maps and tips to move around town. Here are a few good ones:
Get a data plan for your smartphone
Make sure your smartphone works in New York. If you are spending 3 days in New York, having data to easily access the web if needed is important – at least to access Google Maps. In doubt, make sure to download the maps so you can use them offline.
Mind the scams
New York is so crowded with tourists that scams are common. Watch out for the costume characters posing for photos in Times Square: as soon as you snap a photo with them, they will ask for money. And don’t forget that the Staten Island ferry is free, so stay away from anybody who tries to sell you a ticket.
Taxi scams are common too, and beware of pickpockets, especially on the subway.
Get a good travel insurance
Whether you spend 3 days in New York ore more, make sure to get a good travel insurance. Get yours here.
Check out my post “Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.”
Further readings about the United States
Are you planning a trip to the United States? Make sure to read my other posts:
- 35 Incredible Things To Do In New York City
- A Complete Guide To Visiting The Statue Of Liberty
- A Great Itinerary For A Week In New York
- A Wonderful Itinerary For A Day In New York
- The Perfect Itinerary To See New York In 2 Days
- An Easy To Follow Itinerary For 4 Days In New York
- 5 Days In New York: An Easy To Follow New York Itinerary
- A Great Itinerary For 3 Days In San Francisco
- The 10 Best Places To Visit In California (That Aren’t Just Cities)
- 15 Unmissable Things To Do In California
- 10 Things To Do For A Fabulous Trip To Miami
- Seven Adrenaline Filled Things To Do In Yellowstone (With Kids!)
- 10 Not To Miss Hikes Near Denver
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